I've been a fan of the hobby for MANY years and used to subscribe to Model Railroader and hang out in all the local hobby shops. However, I've never managed to actually get intot he hobby personally. My father won me over initially with his beautifully maintained American Flyers set, though I personally like the size of HO gauge. Anyway, fast-forward. I have a 10 year-old now who grew up loving trains and has one of the largest "Brio" and "Rockenbock" collections I'm aware of, but is now growing out of that. He just came home with another great report card and, as a reward, asked if he could get a set of "real trains". The biggest concern I had was to see what his interest level would be before diving in fully. To that end, we just went to Toys R Us and bought a $30 "Life-Like" starter set that is, of course, purely junk (called Golden Rails, though retail was $80). To offset that I also took him to a real hobby shop to show him what was possible and available and picked up a couple additional stock cars, more of that basic, but child-proof Life-Like track (Power-Loc I think they call it). He also saw a locomotive that had "real" smoke and I figured, okay, at $50 it'll work to show him that things can be a lot better than what he started with, still without going nuts. So now he has that starter set and some decent rolling stock and one nice 0-6-0 steam engine. We got home and he was enamored from the moment we started. It was great to see him struggle to get the cars onto the track. I kept using that to enforce the authentic nature of this real hobby over that of toys he was familiar with and that all seemed to implant wonderfully. Then some issues cropped up. First, the "better" locomotive is a Bachmann USRA 0-6-0 w/Smoke & Vanderbilt Tender (#50701). The first thing we noticed is that none of the rolling stock will couple to it. Apparently this loco uses real couplers which is nice, except for this issue. Second, the smoke was a joke and really hurt all the impressions I made. We added the smoke oil and it smoked alright. Out of the wheels and everywhere but the smoke stack. One of the things that won me over as a child was the beautiful smoke that came out of the stack of the American Flyer steam locomotive my Dad set up. I also wonder if I should bother changing out couplers and trucks and what that process should entail. I'm curious to get into the hobby now too if I can bring him along with me so there's more than just his involvement to consider. Can all this early stock be converted to Bachmann or Kadee couplers? If so, which? What should I look to do next to get my son and I to the next level? I know his biggest interest is more track so that he can build mammoth layouts like his Brio days. The landscape doesn't matter to him. It's all about being able to tear it down and build it back up in another configuration, more intricate than the one before. Right now he's got a standard circle made into an oval with 4 straights so that's clearly got to be addressed. The question there is, do we invest in more of this Power-Loc business or get out now and go in a better direction? Thoughts?